Maggie Beer ‘My daughter’s memory lives on’

Australia’s culinary queen reveals how she’s coping a year after Saskia’s tragic death
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A passionate cook and national treasure, Maggie Beer has had a five-decade career that’s seen her pen a stream of bestselling recipe books, create a gourmet food company, and grace the small screen for years.

However, in 2020, just like the rest of us, Maggie’s world collapsed around her – but it wasn’t COVID-19 that tested the culinary queen, rather the death of her daughter Saskia.

WATCH: Tour Maggie Beer’s kitchen garden in the Barossa Valley, SA

“No parent ever gets over the loss of a child – I know that now,” a tearful Maggie tells New Idea.

Mere weeks after celebrating her landmark 75th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary to husband Colin, Maggie awoke on February 14 last year to discover that her “extraordinary” Saskia had unexpectedly died in her sleep at just 46 years old.

While the rest of the country bemoaned the social distancing, for Maggie and her family, it provided a buffer for grief. “It was a gift to not have to see anybody,” she says.

“To just be cocooned by ourselves. To have that time only our closest family around us was a real gift. I could not have been out in the public.”

Maggie Beer
Maggie with her late daughter Saskia (left) and youngest daughter Elli (right). (Credit: Instagram)

However, amid absolute despair, Maggie felt the need to give back. When the full throes of lockdown misery hit the nation, she launched a series of nightly cooking classes from her kitchen in the Barossa Valley in South Australia.

Shot using Maggie’s iPhone, the videos showed everyday Aussies how to make easy dishes from available ingredients.

“I started these to be able to give back,” she says. “Because, if there’s one thing I know that I have, it’s an ability to share with people my love of food.

“Being in the kitchen – as Saskia would have been with me – is my place of comfort and happiness. So doing those videos gave me focus. It was a gift,” says Maggie.

Maggie Beer
When lockdown started Maggie launched a series of nightly cooking classes. (Credit: Supplied)

This mentality has clearly stood the 76-year-old in good stead when times get tough.

“I was born with it,” she enthuses. “It is just part of who I am, and it does help.”

Seven years ago, Maggie established the Maggie Beer Foundation, a charity with the core aim of improving the food experiences of older Australians, particularly those living in aged care homes.

While Maggie juggles more plates than most, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Maggie Beer
Maggie has also started a foundation aimed at improving the food experiences of Australians in aged care homes. (Credit: Supplied)

“I’d like people to remember me for sharing the simplicity of beautiful food,” she says. “Also, the work I’m currently doing with my foundation.”

As well as her own legacy, Maggie is also safeguarding her late daughter’s too, by setting up the Saskia Beer Churchill Fellowship to continue the good work she did with farming and artisanal food innovation.

“As a family we thought of all sorts of ways to pay tribute to her,” explains Maggie.

“But because Colin won a Churchill Fellowship [overseas study grant] back in the ’70s, which was a trigger for our business, it felt right to do this. It feels right to help and encourage someone – like Saskia – who has great ideas and innovation. That way her memory will live on.”

For more, pick up this week’s issue of New Idea, on sale now!

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